Sunday, October 19, 2008

Practice Resurrection or An Earthling's Creed (10/19/08)

Practice Resurrection or An Earthling’s Creed            

My sermon on Sunday was based on I Corinthians 15

I disagreed with Paul when he wrote:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Perhaps you can help me with this. Maybe Paul is saying something different than what I think he is saying. But if I understand him correctly, our value, meaning, and hope is in the afterlife or in some other existence outside of our current existence. If that is what he means, I am 100% in disagreement. I told my folks that, then read this thing I posted a couple of weeks ago:

Do you ever find yourself stepping back from it all and saying to yourself, "What an interesting thing it is to be alive?" At least once per week, and sometimes more frequently than that, I find myself puzzling over my very existence.  
Joseph Campbell said that the first conscious human thought was one of delight: "I am!" The next thought was one of despair: "I will not be." Perhaps that is the cause for religion. We cannot seem to bear the realization that we will one day not be. We think somehow it is not right or just that we will not be. 
It is not fair. There must be more. Perhaps complex religious systems and philosophies developed to help us cope with the anxiety we feel over our eventual demise.  
It is rather childish, isn't it, to demand fairness regarding this? Resurrection, reincarnation, or whatever other beyond the grave hopes that are out there to try to make it all "fair." I suppose at some level these theories work for some people for a while. It might have been easier for some to accept the truth of these theories when we lived in a conceptual universe in which they might possibly be true.  
Regardless of whether or not it might have been easier to believe these things at some time the need for these theories seems to be the interesting question. Why do we think that we deserve more than we actually get? Why do we think we need to exist beyond our natural limitations?  
Perhaps somewhere along our evolutionary path, humans who asked why ended up being more suitable for survival. Or perhaps this anxiety was a byproduct of consciousness. I don't know the answer as to why we think we need or deserve to continue our existence beyond death.  
I do think that it is time, for our own sakes and for the sake of Earth, that we let go of this childish and selfish need. We don't have to feel anxiety about not being. We could accept that this is what it is. Then we could go back to delight: "I am." I am not forever, but for now. Isn't that great!  
Some suggest that if we don't have hopes of afterlife or transcendent deities that our lives have no meaning. As I have explored these theories, I am not sure I find them particularly satisfying or meaningful. Do I really want to be reincarnated again and again and again? Do I really want to live forever in heaven? What would I do? "After ten thousand years bright shining as the sun" I'll be ready to check out.  
My meaning and my satisfaction are very Earthbound. I have perhaps another minute, perhaps not enough time to finish this sentence, or I have perhaps another 40 years or somewhere in between to live--to be. Then at some point, all will pass: all my worries, all my joys, all gone. I have whatever time I have left to be.  
So, how will I be? How will I experience this magnificent gift of being? I am going to be awake and aware as I can. I am going to delight in it. I am going to marvel at the absurdity of my existence. I am not going to spend too much time trying to figure out why I am here, but rather, be aware that I am. According to the ancient psalmist, "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  
I am not so sure about "the Lord" part, but I appreciate the sentiment of delight and acceptance for what is, here and now. I am going to delight in all of Earth's beings. Why not? And because I find it satisfying and meaningful I am going to do whatever I can to help other beings, two-leggeds and four-leggeds, also rejoice and be glad in this day.  
Not only that, I am going to do good work, because it is meaningful and satisfying to me, for those who will come after me: the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds and the multi-leggeds and the finned ones and the winged ones. I have decided that my good work is a part of our great work at this point in history: to regard Earth and all that is within it as a sacred trust. Earth is a sacred, holy trust. Every atom of it is a sacrament. As such, I commit myself to the holy, sacred work of honoring it and preserving it for our future generations.  
No after life for me. No need of it. No need to be any more than an Earthling. 
To me resurrection is about the quality of life and our approach to life before the grave. It is about this existence. I like to read Paul as saying what I think, but I don't know if I am correct. One thing I didn't talk about and I meant to was this interesting statement:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

I noticed that this was odd. If Paul wanted evidence that the historical Jesus rose from the dead, you would think he would say "in accordance with these dudes who saw him wandering about" or something to that effect. But, instead, he says "according to the scriptures." What are these scriptures? My guess is that many people when they read or hear this think that "the scriptures" refers to the empty tomb narratives of the gospel writers.

But that can't be. Paul is writing before they wrote. Those aren't scriptures for Paul. Paul means the Hebrew scriptures. The "scriptures" probably has to do with the poetry of Hosea 6: 
‘Come, let us return to the Lord;for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;he has struck down, and he will bind us up.After two days he will revive us;on the third day he will raise us up,that we may live before him.Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;his appearing is as sure as the dawn;he will come to us like the showers,like the spring rains that water the earth.’
Paul is not talking about the historical Jesus being raised after three days. Paul isn't using Hosea as if Hosea is predicting some historical event. Paul is speaking in the tradition of Hosea and is speaking metaphorically about this great hope of life and healing which the third day symbolizes. It is like Jonah in the fish's tummy. Jonah gets barfed up on the third day. Paul claims to have experienced this third day reality "in Christ." It is about forgiveness, new hope, a fresh start, and participation in a community of equals with love as its highest value--among other things.

Live life.  No need to be pitied for that.

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